Kevin Clifton in Burn the Floor
**** (4 stars)
Burn the Floor had [probably] the unlikeliest beginning a dance show has ever had – at one of Elton John’s birthday parties. He wanted some ballroom dancers to entertain him: so a show was devised which was the seed from which Burn the Floor grew into a dance phenomenon which has toured the world, had an eight-month residence on Broadway, and now finally is undertaking its first-ever UK tour – first ever, because the powers that be decided the UK audience would be too staid and reserved to appreciate this “high energy, high octane” show.
Well, the powers that be were proved wrong, in spades: the audience screamed, shouted, whistled, stamped and generally went berserk throughout the evening – with the sole exception of yours truly who sat with my fingers in my ears because the live music was at pain level… Two guitarists, two percussionists, and two singers – all superb musicians – provided the accompaniment and also took part in the show, while a team of impressively talented dancers added their skills to the front line partnership of Strictly’s Kevin From Grimsby and new boys Graziano di Prima and Johannes Radebe.
Nearly-shattered eardrums apart, it was a good show – but I found myself longing for the elegance and subtlety of Scottish Ballet’s recent Dextera, Sophie Laplane’s extraordinary investigation of the human body and its expressiveness and flexibility. Burn the Floor was full of emotion and energy, but it seemed largely one-dimensional, with all the men displaying their machismo, and all the women selling their bodies for all they were worth. Energy, yes; power, yes; talent, yes; commitment, yes – but to what? There was a continual undercurrent of violence underlined by the generally skimpy red and black costumes the girls wore – any flowing skirts were generally ripped off pretty quickly – while the men stamped, postured and strutted, undulated their hips and generally threw the girls about. True, there were occasions on which the girls gave as good as they got: but the few moments of gentleness, like the opening of Quando, quando, quando, were rapidly lost as the tempo and volume were once more ramped up to fever pitch. The notable exception to all this was the second half number for Graziano and his new fiancée Giada, in which they expressed the pain of living a life that so frequently keeps them apart.
The show is billed as ‘non-stop’ energy – but there were a fair number of lengthy breaks in which one or other and occasionally all three of the ‘front men’ came onstage and talked to us. Kevin, the reigning Strictly champion, proudly brought out the glitterball trophy, and the audience went wild as he talked about his six years with the show and, finally, his win. Graziano told us of his relationship with Giada, and Johannes of how with his mama’s help he followed his dream of becoming a dancer. All three waxed eloquent on the subjects of Strictly and the Burn the Floor family, of which they are proud and happy to be a part.
I went to this show in a spirit of enquiry, wondering what it’s like to see Strictly dancers off-screen. They are extremely talented, very personable, and engage excellently with their audience – who adore them. This show isn’t my cup of tea – too loud, not enough contrast, and pretty monothematic: but the rest of the audience went wild throughout, and leapt to their feet during the final number – I could feel the balcony floor shaking! – before leaving the theatre in a buzz of excited conversation.
Kevin Clifton in Burn the Floor, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Run Ended UK Tour continues.